📝A Year of Living Mindfully: Week 15📝

Noticing the Narrative

Meditation teaches us how to observe our thoughts from a different angle. During meditation practice we also start to notice the same old stories that come up time and time again. These may be things like “I am not good enough”, “I need to get a new job”, “Why am I still single?”- the list goes on. 

Whatever story we tell ourselves will be influenced by our frame of mind. If we feel a bit down in ourselves the story will be negative, whereas if we feel happy then the story will have a more positive story line. This fact alone tells us we can’t take our thoughts as facts. This weeks exercise asked for us to pay attention to the stories we tell ourselves by using the following guidelines:

  1. Notice how your mood influences your interpretation of an experience.

  2. Become aware of your posture, paying particular attention to your jaw (is it relaxed or clenched?) and your hands. How are your shoulders? Notice expressions: are you frowning?

  3. Tune into your body and become aware of any sensations that are arising in response to the story (and then notice if new thoughts arise about those sensations). Of course, there may be none.

  4. When you become aware of a recurring thought, it can be helpful to bring some lighthearted humour to naming it: For example, thinking “ANXIOUS ANNIE IS HERE AGAIN!” will help you to distance yourself from your anxiety.

  5. Are you feeding a particular story, maybe playing sad songs when the story is negative and encouraging feelings of sadness to manifest? We may not be able to control our thoughts but we can control how we respond to them.

  6. Notice the feeling tone of your thoughts as these can be helpful indications of your current state of mind.

Exploring the body and physical manifestations of the thought and/or emotion can be a helpful  to disengage from the “doing” mind. We can also use the breath as a way of shifting our attention away from a particular focus. We do this all the time when we meditate, but we can do it when we are doing about our daily life, as well.

Personal Reflection:

  1. I felt a bit stressed out and my mood was a bit all over the place. I was texting my friend and they replied to a message with a very short response. I interpreted that as “maybe they’re angry with me?”, “why are they being so short?”.  I started to jump to conclusions and make up a scenario in my head.
  2. My posture at the time: I was frowning.
  3. I started to feel anxious and my breath got a little faster.
  4. “JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS IS HERE AGAIN”
  5. By not asking my friend if anything was wrong I was feeding into my story and giving myself more time to make the story even bigger. I responded by sending even more messages as I was starting to become even more anxious. With every message sent and no reply received, I was feeding into my story. If I had changed my response and asked if anything was wrong then waited for a reply, I would not have become as anxious.
  6. The next time this scenario arose I waited for a response from my friend and focused on my breath until they responded. There was nothing wrong with them in the end. They were busy driving and could not reply in big essays.
  7. The feeling tone of my thoughts were anxious. This reflected how I was feeling all day. I was a bit stressed out with college work and it definitely showed in the story i developed inside my head.

What story is headlining within your head this week?

 

J x

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💪🏼The Strength of Forgiveness💪🏼

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“You will begin to heal when you let go of past hurts, forgive those who have wronged you and learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes”.

“You have to learn to select your thoughts the way you select your clothes every day. That’s a power you can cultivate. You wanna come here and control your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should control. If you can’t master your thoughts, you’re in trouble … stop trying. Surrender”. – Richard from Texas

What is forgiveness?

The first step to forgiveness is admitting that we have blamed someone or ourselves for something.  We are filled with anger, resentment, blame, hatred. Forgiveness is about letting go of these feelings we have been carrying around. Releasing yourself of these heavy thoughts of revenge or bitterness. We do not even have to come in to contact with the person we are trying to forgive. We do not have to tell them we forgive them or tell anyone at that matter. It is for your sanity and happiness that you need to forgive. The more we talk about how people have done us wrong and hurt us, the more negative thoughts and emotions we bring about in ourselves. Of course let off some steam and vent to your best friend about it when it is fresh and new and reflect. That is also a part of healing. But then forgive. Let the space be filled with love. Let it go.

Forgive and Forget?

Forgiveness doesn’t come easily for everyone, but the kind of forgiveness that really matters is the forgiveness that resides in your own heart. Self-compassion is what will enable you to learn and grow and become the best version of yourself. I will dedicate another post for self-compassion SOON. Forgiving someone does not mean you approve of the wrong they have done. It can mean different things to different people. For me, it means I forgive those who were not in a good head space at the time or had portrayed their inner demons through their behaviour. Sometimes I might view it as the person not being on the same emotional maturity as I am but that sometimes can come across as a bit arrogant. It is not that you feel sorry for the person either. It is about building awareness that peoples behaviours are usually a reflection of their inner selves. The same way if any of us have a bad day they might snap at the next person who asks them a question. If you are feeling sh**t about yourself you might criticise others just to make yourself feel better. Kind of like those bullies in school. More than likely they had a lot of stuff going on for them, either in their head or at home. Forgiveness is not about sympathising with people but about empathising with them.

sympathy: feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.

empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

I also understand that some people commit horrible crimes and do outrageous things to people that cannot be empathised with. Some people might blame themselves for things others have done to them and might feel the horrible abuse or mistrust was deserving. In this case the person to forgive is yourself.

FORGIVE YOURSELF FIRST

Forgive yourself for believing you could have stopped what had happened. Forgive yourself for  believing you are not worthy. Forgive yourself for believing you were deserving of what happened. Forgive yourself for being in this negative mindset. Forgiveness is a journey. It is something that needs to be practised daily. You don’t just wake up one day and have forgiven and healed yourself and everyone around you.

I watched a movie recently called ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’ There was a scene where Julia Roberts (Liz Gilbert) was speaking about how upset she was that she had left her husband and she felt he would never forgive her. This was something that was bothering her throughout the majority of the movie until she met this nice man (Richard from Texas) at a retreat in India who thought her she did not have to come in contact with her husband or hear him say he forgave her. She simply had to forgive herself.

 Liz Gilbert: I’m waiting for him to forgive me, to release me.
Richard from Texas: Waiting for him to forgive you is a damn waste of time. Forgive yourself.

“We all want things to stay the same, David … settle for living in misery, because we’re afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins. Then I looked around in this place, at the chaos it’s endured, the way it’s been adapted, burned, pillaged … then found a way to build itself back up again, and I was reassured. Ruin is a gift, ruin is the road to transformation”. – Liz Gilbert

Self Reflection

I have learned to forgive friends who chose boyfriends over our friendship. I have learned to forgive my Dad for making decisions I felt were wrong when it came to family and marriage. Work colleagues who had outbursts of rage towards me. But most importantly I have learned to forgive myself for making ill decisions in the past, for not taking responsibility for my own happiness sooner, for thinking I needed a boyfriend before I could find happiness and contentment. By letting go of all these negative feelings and thoughts I had towards these people and myself, I have become the happiest I have ever been. That, alongside mindfulness and other self healing practices. Happiness is not a destination, it is a journey. You too will have your own journey.

As Kylie Jenner said ‘2016 is about realising stuff’. And I certainly have realised A LOT this past year!

 

J x

A Year of Living Mindfully: Week 12

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Appreciating the Good

They say we can ‘redress’ our natural bias towards negativity by focusing on the pleasant and positive experiences. Because there is no survival benefit to enjoying pleasant experiences, they usually happen momentarily and are gone. 

Mindfulness is all about being able to bring that small experience into awareness for as little as 60 seconds in order to save it in our long term memory. (Have we all seen ‘Inside Out’ the children’s movie?). These small pleasant experiences are usually appreciated and made more aware of by the young. In the movie ‘Inside Out’ they explain how aware children are of small happy moments and how such small things can impact on a child’s development. These happy moments are stored in their long term memory until bigger emotions take their place. This could be as simplistic as when the first time their Mother made them laugh or the first time they tried to eat jelly. The feeling of happiness children experience usually sits with them a lot longer than in adults.  As we grow older these experiences go unnoticed because adults are usually  preoccupied with more ‘important’ things in life like how they are going to pay the bills or who’s turn it is to take the bins out. The minute happiness occurs in an adult they have already jumped onto a new feeling or a new thought. Children are the most mindful of us all.

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BANKING THE GOOD

Sometimes people are surprised at they way a seemingly insignificant experience creates a strong sense of pleasure, which they experience again when they reflect on it- an added bonus. Our natural negative bias means we usually forget a transitory pleasant experience- the warm sun on our face, the scent of a flower, the smile that lights up a child’s face when they see us- but if we pay attention to the experience, noticing its different elements, we “bank” it in our long-term memory and life starts to feel richer and more fulfilling. 

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This weeks exercise wanted us to make an intention to be more aware of those fleeting moments of pleasure. Do it every day for a week (or more). At the end of the week reflect on any new discoveries or insights.

What was the experience?

What thoughts occurred to you?

What felt sensations did you notice in the body?

What emotions were you aware of?

What are you experiencing now as you answer these questions?

This week I reflected on several positive experiences, one of which was particularly positive. Now its not every day or week I do this but as its coming close to Christmas I felt a bit emotional and giving. During the week I was shopping in Marks and Spencer’s and when you spend over 75 euro you get a free gift (a box with wine, Christmas pudding, biscuits, sweets etc.). I was delighted and immediately imagined myself and my best friend sitting on the couch having a nibble and a glass of wine. I was bombarded with shopping bags that day. I walked by sooooo many homeless people sat on the cold ground looking miserable. I decided F**k this I have enough treats at home, I’ll give this gift box to the next homeless person I see. So that’s what I done. And Wow. I have never seen someones eyes light up as much as this man’s did. “Thank you so much, you don’t realize how much I appreciate this. Seriously, Thank you”. My god I certainly would not have appreciated it as much as he did. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude (I had a little cry, as usual. I am an emotional being). I felt so happy that I had made someone look and feel the way he did. His happiness with the gift lasted a lot longer than mine would have. He sat there staring at it with joy, whereas I would have had the whole thing eaten at that stage. I reflected on how much I take for granted in life and how I need to start appreciating the little things more. It was a positive experience that will certainly be entering my long-term memory. Even reflecting back again writing this, all the same emotions I felt that day come flowing back. I received great happiness and pleasure from this small act of kindness. I also reflected on other small moments of pleasure throughout the week but this was one that stuck out for me.

What small moments of pleasure can you remember from the week past? 

J x

📚Organisation is KEY📚

“Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail”

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 Mindfulness seems to be about living in the present. BUUTTTT I just love organizing and planning waaaaay too much to constantly live in the moment. I don’t organize in extreme but I do like to have an organizer or diary with me where I write down upcoming appointments, trips planned, bills, budget. It keep’s me focused and help’s me remember. Budgeting is a must for me as I have my wages spent before I even get it. I work 3/4 days per week and do 13 hour days. My days off have to planned efficiently so I can ensure I make appointments, fit in socializing with friends. At the moment I’v got a personal trainer, I’m learning how to drive, doing a Masters part time, working full time and have to try fit in my friends and family in between. If I didn’t organise then I’d get nothing done!

 Organisation is key in the workplace. It help’s you keep on top of things, meet deadlines, ensure quality and give yourself some free time for a cup of coffee. The following are some tips to help keep organised in the workplace. I’ll do future posts on organizing at home and other environments in later posts.

Set yourself goals

Having a plan for the future will help you prioritize your activities and have something to work towards. The whole ‘Where do you see yourself in ten years time?’ question works well for this part. Have short term and long term goals that plan strategically how you will get where you want to go in your career and how you are going to make the next steps towards a promotion, or towards a new role. I’ll explain goal setting in its own seperate post soon.

Write a list

I LOVE LISTS! Whether first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, writing a list of the tasks you need to achieve will help you stay focused, and give you a sense of achievement every time you tick something off.

Limit distractions

If you’re constantly distracted from your work by emails, phone calls or social media, you need to practise concentrating on the task at hand. Try to manage a 45 minute stretch without checking any communication channels, followed by 15 minutes answering emails and phone calls and so on. This is a form of mindfulness.

Banish multi-tasking

Doing two things at once may seem like good time management but in fact, you will do both things less well than if you concentrate on one thing at a time. Quality over quantity.

Prioritise and delegate

We all get bombarded with a lot of information and tasks on a daily basis. Learn to filter out the most important or difficult tasks and tackle them when you are at your most alert. If you can, delegate less important tasks, but don’t micromanage other people’s activities as this will only add to your own workload. I personally find it difficult to delegate tasks at times. I’d be the awkward person who’d ask someone to do a task in a jokey half arsed way or end up doing everything myself instead of asking others. I’m just an awkward f**k really. BUT I’m getting better and I do delegate a lot more nowadays. I suppose it comes with experience and confidence in your workplace.

Be a ruthless filer

When a task lands on your desk, don’t leave it to gather dust. Decide when you are going to do it, and then either do it, file it or bin it according to what needs to be done. Having an organised folder system will help, so ensure every piece of work gets filed in the appropriate place as soon as it’s completed. Personally, clutter makes me anxious, stresses me out. When I clean and organise my workplace or bedroom or even my sitting room, the tension relief is amazing and the inner peace I achieve is just FABULOUS!

 

J x

⭐️A Year of Living Mindfully: Week 2⭐️

 Through reflection we become more focused which enables personal growth and learning from our life experiences. The first section of Week 2’s activity highlights the importance of reflecting by simply scribbling on a page or using your eyes to observe. It allows us to keep focused on our goals to ensure we are heading in the right direction. 

 In college S.M.A.R.T goals were always drilled into our heads (Small, Measruable, Achievable, Realistic, Time). Specific short term and long term goals are essential to keep you focused in life. The amazing feeling you get once you’ve achieved them is just fabulous! Now I don’t mean setting yourself a goal like running a marathon next week and only giving yourself 7 days to train. Instead book a place on the marathon in 3 months time as your long term goal and set yourself small goals leading up to it like starting off this week doing a 10 minute run then work your way up. 

 Daily reflection helps us move forward and ensures we don’t take two steps back along the way. We reflect on how far we’ve come with our goals, what steps were taking towards achieving them, and any what new goals have. It helps us identify any good or bad patterns we recognise in our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. We usually reflect with our friends through a phone call of how the night before went and how ridiculous so and so’s outfit was or maybe you come home from work and reflect with your family on how a colleague really p*****d you off today! Others might use diaries or social media to reflect. 

 I personally like to finish my day off by reflecting with family or friends by using this simple method: what was your peak and pit of the day?. This helps me identify good and bad points of my day. For example my pit of the day was missing my train and my peak of the day was getting a free coffee. Sometimes I don’t have any pits and sometimes I have too many to list off. At the end of a holiday or trip I like to do this  also. Reflecting back on arguments or conversations about who said what and how you responded when she said or expressing how they made you feel is another form. For example reflecting on going for a walk to get away from bad vibes at home and reflecting on your feelings before, during and after. 

 The second half of Week 2 teaches us how to do a ‘body scan’ on ourselves to help us tune into our thoughts, feelings, emotions and senses. Sometimes we tend to push a thought to the back of our brain because it is unpleasant and makes us feel bad. We also tend to intellectualise our experiences. These can both use up a lot of energy and can leave us feeling numb. Feeling emotions both good and bad, are what makes us feel alive! Tuning into our bodies is when we become curious about our emotions, feelings, thoughts and senses. This can be done through the use of the body scan. The following steps will guide you through your first body scan:……



This section also gives easy to follow steps for strong feelings of discomfort or pain:…..


These exercises can be done before work, during your break, first thing when you wake up, before you go to bed….. Any time of the day when you have an extra few minutes to reflect and be mindful. Iv done these exercises once and once only. I keep telling myself I’ll open the book and do it again but never find the time or so I keep telling myself anyway. 

Looking forward to Week 3! 

J x